Thai soy sauces are similar to Chinese soy sauces in that there are both dark and light varieties. However, there are some key differences. Some say Thai soy sauce isn’t as briny or harshly salty as Chinese/Japanese soy sauce, because the salty flavor is balanced by sweetness from added sugar. Thai cooking, after all, is all about balancing disparate flavors!
If you enjoy cooking Thai dishes like pad see ew or drunken noodles in addition to our Chinese recipes, you may want some of these Thai soy sauces in your pantry to achieve the most authentic Thai flavors! Let’s talk about the major types of Thai soy sauce and their uses.
What Is Thai Soy Sauce? What Types Are There?
We’re going to talk about four major types of Thai soy sauce. Two are of the “light” variety and two are of the “dark” variety.
Thai Light Soy Sauce (see ew khao): Also sometimes labeled “thin soy sauce” or even “white soy sauce,” Thai light soy sauce is the Thai equivalent of a Chinese light soy sauce––your basic, regular multipurpose soy sauce for use in most situations.
Thai Mushroom Light Soy Sauce: A version of Thai light soy sauce that is flavored with mushrooms. This can be used interchangeably with Thai light soy sauce, and whether or not you want that extra umami/mushroom flavor in dishes is a matter of personal preference. Note that this differs significantly from Chinese Mushroom Flavored Dark Soy Sauce, which is a syrupy dark soy sauce rather than an all-purpose cooking sauce.
Thai Black/Dark Soy Sauce (see ew dahm): Similar to Chinese dark soy sauce or double black soy sauce, Thai black soy sauce is slightly sweet (from added palm sugar molasses), with a thicker consistency.
Thai Sweet Soy Sauce (see ew wan): Like a Thai Black Soy Sauce with much more sugar added! It has a thick, syrupy consistency, dark color, and very sweet flavor. It is sometimes used in noodle and stir-fry dishes as well as dipping sauces.
As you can see below, thin soy sauce (left) is quite light colored and, well, thin! Black soy sauce (middle) is much darker and a bit thicker, while sweet soy sauce (right) has a very thick, syrupy consistency. Thai mushroom light soy sauce is similar in look and consistency to Thai thin soy sauce.
How Is It Used?
Applications of these Thai soy sauces are similar to how their Chinese equivalents are used in Chinese cooking. Thai light soy sauces (both the regular and mushroom varieties) are used to salt, flavor, and season food in stir-fries, braises, etc.
Thai black soy sauce is used much like Chinese dark soy sauce, in that it adds color to dishes. Thai sweet soy sauce, with its syrupy flavor, is most often used in dipping sauces and sometimes to add sweetness and color to stir-fry dishes (though it’s not used as often as Thai black soy sauce).
We have Thai soy sauces in our pantry specifically for cooking Thai dishes. In our Thai recipes, you’ll see that we call for “light soy sauce” and “dark soy sauce,” just like in our Chinese recipes.
You could certainly just use Chinese light and dark soy sauces for cooking Thai dishes, and they’ll still be delicious, just not as authentically Thai. For that reason, if we have Thai light/dark soy sauces available in our pantry (which we usually do!), that’s what we use when we blog Thai recipes.
When light soy sauce is called for in a Thai recipe, pick up your Thai Light Soy Sauce/Thin Soy Sauce or Thai Mushroom Light Soy Sauce. If we call for dark soy sauce in a Thai recipe, reach for Thai Black Soy Sauce. Thai Sweet Soy Sauce is rarely called for in our recipes, as we usually just add more sugar to a recipe if we want to achieve additional sweetness.
Buying & Storing
Thai soy sauces can be found in Thai and Southeast Asian markets, as well as very well-stocked Chinese supermarkets (Thailand does have a significant Chinese population).
The Healthy Boy brand is what’s usually available at our local market, and it happens to also be one of the most popular brands in Thailand.
Like most of the soy sauces in our pantry, we do not refrigerate any of these Thai soy sauces. We store them well-sealed in a cool, dry spot in our pantry.
If you have further questions about Thai soy sauce types or Thai cooking in general, let us know in the comments––we try to answer every single one!
Note that we haven’t extensively covered soy sauces from other southeast Asian countries in our glossary. If you’d like to learn more, check out this interesting and helpful Kikkoman-sponsored report written by Food Researcher Nami Fukutome about soy sauce usage in Thailand as well as the Philippines and Vietnam.
Thai Soy Sauce substitute
- 1 teaspoon Chinese dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon granulated or brown sugar
- mix 1 teaspoon Chinese dark soy sauce and 1 teaspoon brown sugar (makes 2 teaspoons Thai Sweet soy sauce
- You can use equal p[arts dark soy sauce and sugar to make whatever quantity you need